Most girls would kill to have a faerie prince be infatuated with them, and for the chance to rule a kingdom, as long as they didn't read the fine print. To get out of a pact that her great-great grandmother made, seventeen-year-old Ivy Rose cuts a deal with a faerie prince that turns sour and ends up with her being incarcerated in a psychiatric hospital and treated for post-traumatic stress. Even without the threat of malicious faeries who want to make sure she makes good on her part of the deal, Henderson Psych isn't really the most charming of places, with half of its buildings boarded up, doctors who have permission to do anything to you, as long as the proper admittance forms were signed, and other patients who think she's just as crazy as they are, even though the shadows don't quite stay still any more. Not to mention, the ghost of her great-great grandmother seems content to follow Ivy around and make her look crazier than normal by trying to start conversations in the middle of therapy sessions. Sharp-toothed creatures like to hang around the gates outside, and are pressing closer as Halloween looms, while Ivy tries to laden as much iron as possible around herself to keep them and their brethren away.
I’m a sucker for a supernatural pact gone sour, and I really like the psych hospital setting. The ghost-interrupted therapy sessions sound amusing, and doctors “who can do anything to you” add an extra sinister touch.
So I feel like I know about the stuff around the story, but the story itself seems rather muddled. It sounds like it kicks off with the pact gone wrong – so we need more details on that and why Ivy wanted out, which would also show us something about Ivy and make her less of a cipher. (Don’t try to ‘hook’ the reader by mysteriously withholding the kind of information we actually really need to know.) Is the prince the antagonist? Can we learn some more stuff about him? He gets one mention, his minions get a mention, and that’s about it, when the antagonist is actually a crucial part of the novel and so you need to better convey who he is and what he wants in the hook.. What’s at stake, exactly (Ivy, all the people in the hospital, her grandmother’s ghost who can never rest unless Ivy saves the day, etc.)? Once Ivy gets in the hospital, how do her actions drive the story forward, instead of the story just happening to her? She’s kind of just wandering around the hospital, being hassled by her dead great-great grandmother, and hoarding iron.
So as it is now, the book seems a bit scattered and episodic. Focus on giving us a driving, forward sense of the central storyline – what Ivy’s problem is, who her antagonist is, how she takes action and struggles and finally triumphs (or not).
Definitely keep working on this. Pass.
Hook 116 – NEXT ROUNDER
Thirteen-year-old boys rarely go to hell. They rarely have to. David Lowell does. One year after an accident killed David’s father and
nearly killed David, his world starts to change. A world that is difficult enough for an epileptic boy with traumatic brain damage that has left him unable to read. After a bad seizure, objects from David’s dreams start appearing in his waking world. He can’t tell when he’s awake and when he’s dreaming.
People around him are changing. Some look strange, as though they have shadows around them. At first he thinks he’s hallucinating because of his new seizure medicines, but soon David is afraid he’s going mad.
David’s “shadow people” start to die unexpectedly. A girl from his class. The woman who drives him to school. He comes home one day and home is no longer there. His mum, his sister, even his flat have disappeared. He finds his mother; she has no idea who he is. Says she never had a son. Deciding at last that the only way out is through, David finds a way into the hallucinatory world that has plagued him.
He enters a world built on the logic of dreams. Lands where he can read again. Read languages he’s never seen. He’ll need every clue he can find and every ally he can make to return to his world, if he can even find it. But being lost is the least of his problems. He is relentlessly pursued by one enemy he’s faced before: Death. But Death does not want to kill him. Death wants to put him to work. Forever.
Death will chase David through Heaven and Hell, because David has the one gift Death needs: David can see those who have cheated Death. And Death hates a cheater.
The story sounds original and interesting. I’m intrigued by this idea of an urban-fantasy dreamworld (if a bit apprehensive that it’s too dreamy – I hope that there is indeed some logic to the dreamlogic, method to the madness, to create structure and suspense for the reader). David is an incredibly sympathetic character.
Are ‘heaven’ and ‘hell’ literal places in this story or folded into the dreamworld or are you just speaking metaphorically? Kind of unclear. I’d also like some kind of sense of Death as a character, an image – because I’m picturing those Halloween costumes and it seems this tale deserves better. I’m also concerned that this story will be too much like a dream itself, with David’s hallucinations, fears of madness, ‘dreamlogic’, etc. – and not anchored enough in both the real world, populated with real, fully-fleshed out characters other than David, and in the sense of a dreamworld as actual otherworld with its own interior structure of rules, however odd those rules may be. You mention David ‘accessing’ this dreamworld (how? That would help) and then searching for a way back to his world, so I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt here.
So I’m definitely sending you through. There’s talent and potential here. Five pages please. Good luck.
Urban Fantasy - adult –
Hook 130 -- NEXT ROUNDER
Playing at the Roxy, surfing, smoozing with movie stars and celebutantes, running on four legs in the Malibu Hills, and howling at the moon under the Hollywood sign. Just another day in the life of five young musicians who are the werewolves of Hollywood.
After escaping from their violent clan at a young age two brothers travel the world, picking up other strays like themselves and finally finding sanctuary in LA., a place where every move they make isn't seen as a challenge to the picking order of the pack. They'd rather be writing the perfect lyric, chasing cars down Ventura and finding their next gig… or maybe finding Miss Right. After all wolves mate for life so she has to be pretty special. But when one brother's mate appears she is being hunted by their clan, other weres and shifters who wish to steal her away and have her under their control. The band will brave the challenge with cunning trickery, seeming betrayal, the help of unforeseen allies, but most of all with flashing fangs and flying fur. They are band-mates, roommates, pack-mates and life-mates. They are a family.
They are the children of the night and what beautiful music they make. The band goes on at moonrise. VIP party to follow.
Love the setting, the voice. Musicians are hot. Unfortunately the hook falls apart for me when we get to the stuff about the “brother’s mate appears she is being hunted” – an awkward sentence here and rather jarring in what is an otherwise well-written hook. These two sentences (But when one brother’s….flashing fangs and flying fur) throw an awful lot at the reader – the mate in danger (who is she?), the clan hunting her (why?), other weres and shifters (wait, where did the other shifters come from? So it’s not just werewolves?) – and the various ways they fight off the challenge. So this seems to be the actual bulk of the Story – where the major conflict is -- and yet it’s glossed over very quickly, and the ‘brother’s mate’ doesn’t even get a name.
I would also like a strong vivid image of at least one character to care about. You seem to be doing some kind of collective-protagonist thing with the pack – which makes sense, since it is a pack – which is a difficult thing to pull off -- but could also make the book more unusual and innovative than the many other werewolf stories out there. But what about the brother’s mate? Since she’s the character at stake – not to mention that anyone being hunted by a clan automatically has my interest and sympathy – can we get a sense of who she actually is, both as a human woman and wolf?
So the hook needs some work, and I’m not entirely confident about the manuscript behind it, but there’s enough stuff working here to make me cautiously request some of the ms. So you’re moving on. Five pages please. Good luck.
Dora’s lifelong dream is almost within her grasp. All she’s got to do is cast a few thousand pieces of jewelry in the two weeks before her hometown of Starke opens as Idaho’s newest ski resort.
As a practicing Buddhist—and oh, Buddha does she need a lot of practice—she should know better than to try to control anything. Her beloved dad, Wild Rupert the mountain recluse, shows up and thrusts a necklace worth millions in her face. Ohm.
“Sell it today, or I’m dead,” he demands. Dead? Ohm. “Did you steal it?” Dora
asks. Without answering, he runs off. Dora pursues him to his tiny cabin, only to discover her father missing and a naked murdered stranger in his place. Double ohm. Rupert must have meant it when he said, “I’m
dead.” Dora knows Dad can’t be the killer—can he? Or is there a killer in pursuit of Wild Rupert? Does she have to sell the necklace to save her father’s life—if she can find Dad and the killer? If she sells the necklace to save Rupert and it’s stolen—ooh, such bad karma. And now Sheriff Lester is determined to capture Rupert as the suspected murderer—even if Lester has to kill him to do it. Dora figures she can find out who killed the stranger, find her father, save his life,
find out about the necklace, and cast some jewelry all before the ski resort opens. She’s wrong, so wrong.
Cute voice – almost too cutesy, but there’s definitely a flair of personality here, a strong sense of storytelling voice.
Unfortunately the hook gets convoluted very quickly – too many questions, and not enough sense of how the answers link up to each other and why we should care, exactly. Dig deeper. Dig into Dora (I do like that she’s a jewelry designer). This is her father, after all. If he’s a wild mountain recluse, I imagine this made things difficult for her growing up, and she probably has some issues with him.
When you read mysteries, pay attention to how the protagonist generally has some inner conflict to work out, some inner demon to resolve, along with the big external mystery: the two things are related and one gives depth and breadth to the other. Your hook would be more emotionally compelling if you conveyed a greater sense of Dora’s inner conflict and how she resolves this and grows through the story. Light-hearted writing seems easy and breezy, yet still needs to be suspenseful and emotionally satisfying, and this is a difficult thing to pull off. You’re doing some things right, but I’m not yet convinced. Keep at it. Pass.
It is called “Shay” by most, a divine gift by others. It knows no boundaries--noble or common, man or woman. All can distinguish which of the six Shay powers one has by the color that illuminates from the fortunate one’s eyes. The few who awaken the power discard their insignificant lives; they become one of the king’s elite soldiers: a Shay Rol’dan.
For as long any can remember it has been this way: each family hoping to come into prosperity through the Rol’dan. However, as time passed, the Shay powers weakened; the number of new recruits declined, and with it, the Shay Rol’dan became the most feared and coveted position in the land.
Nolan Trividar hides his Shay behind the profession of a scribe, choosing a life of mediocrity over the Rol’dan. When a Rol’dan deserter is captured, Nolan discovers that this traitor may be the land’s only prospect to save its most valued treasure: the Shay. To rescue him, Nolan must reveal his own secret and becomes a traitor himself; and together, with the help of their friends, they must find the source of the dwindling Shay power. The answer may not only save their beloved Shay, but also enlighten the land. And in the process, Nolan is transformed far beyond what any of them could have imagined before.
Okay. ‘Shay’ – I like the name, the six powers seem interesting, and I’m a sucker for oddly colored eyes.
My concern is that perhaps you’ve trotted out some standard fantasy tropes without truly thinking through their implications (and a good fantasy world must be well thought out). Why is it such an ‘honor’ to be an elite soldier for the King? Prosperity is well and good, and definitely motivating, but a different thing than ‘honor’ (which looks beyond the self’s desires for gratification, prosperity, power). In short, I don’t see how the status quo of this kingdom – which appears to be ruled through power, fear, and bloodline – is something that needs to be preserved through the renewal of the Shay. If you gave us a truly good King (not just some generic title/cliché) we could like, and a truly terrible enemy – and the Shay is the only thing holding that enemy back from killing the King and engulfing the land – that would help establish the stakes, our reason to care, the story’s tension and suspense (plus the potential for a really cool Big Bad).
So having established how awesome this position is, you present us with a guy who deliberately denies it. Intriguing and good. But why would Nolan rather have a mediocre life -- and how is this ‘mediocrity’ defined? Because he lacks power and status? What if he loves his work and has a rich family and social life and a passionate hobby to boot? I can understand his life being mediocre for the simple reason that he’s denying his true gifts, his hero’s calling, but this again brings us back to my original question: why? Perhaps he regards the position as tainted or corrupt in some way and perhaps he is idealistic (to a fault) and high-minded. Or perhaps it has something to do with his own fear of/experience with the great antagonist, assuming there is one. This I’d find interesting – I’d find any good reason interesting, but you don’t provide one here, and as a result we have no sense of who this guy is or what drives him.
It seems that you give most of your hook to the general situation around the story and then cram the actual story into a rushed couple of sentences. But without specific details, genuinely motivated characters and fresh images/ideas, your story becomes a recitation of generic fantasy elements: dude on the run, his band of companions, the quest for the Magical Object/Source, a kingdom somehow at stake (but how and why is kept vague), etc. The traitor thing sounds intriguing but, again, is left very vague.
This hook gives me the sense of a manuscript that just isn’t ready yet – needs more development, more digging, more exploration and choices to think through. Keep working, thinking and writing. Pass.
Betrayed and believing her family dead, Analinde leaves her mountain home to warn the nearest elvish stronghold about the traitors. She reaches Miredell, the school where elves have studied for thousands of years, and tells them of the treachery. The traitors have enlisted a Human Wizard to find the Mageborn Books. If the wizard succeeds, civil war is assured. For the books contain all the knowledge of the elves, and in the wrong hands could mean the destruction of both elves and humans.
Fearing war and haunted by memories of villagers brutally murdered and her home in ruin, Analinde feels increasing dread. She boxes these feelings away, and pushes herself to quickly learn the skills of a mage. The traitors are out of reach, so when the High Council Mages leave to stop the humans, she'll go with them by fair means or foul.
This fantasy novel follows Analinde in her journey through grief and discovery as she grows into her powers as an Elven Mage, stops following and begins to lead.
You cut right to the action here, which is good, but you also need to provide enough information and well-chosen detail so that the reader is very clear about what’s going on. How was Analinde betrayed? So her family isn’t actually dead (if they’re not, then wouldn’t this surface later in the novel and be an important plot point)? Who is the antagonist -- flesh out these ‘traitors’, who are they? Is Analinde an elf or a human?
Why is the knowledge in these Mageborn Books so dangerous it will result in civil war? I assume it’s magical in some way? Be very careful about dealing with clichés here – dangerous knowledge, revelations, could be intriguing (an elf version of Da Vinci Code), a magical McGuffin not so much, because it’s so familiar and so easy. It’s fine, albeit tricky, if you want to deal with concepts as wellworn as elves and evil wizards – but you really do need to reinvent them in some way, make them unique and interesting and very much your own.
And then your hook rears up and dies. She trains to be a mage, there’s something about her sneaking off with the High Council Mages, and then…she works her way through grief (so her family really is dead?) and becomes a powerful mage-leader. This last sentence summarizes her transformation without showing us how it happens. Does she go after the Books? Fight the Traitors? Go against the High Council? Fall in love with the sexy elfboy next door? I don’t even know the name of the land/world/kingdom in which this whole thing takes place.
My sense is that you need to spend a lot more time with your story, your world, and your characters. Brainstorm for fresh, wild ideas to build on– dig deeply into the nature and motivations of your characters. Keep at it. Pass.
KNIGHT ERRANT is a 76,000 word science fiction novel.
TARO HIBIKI-MARCORI has the perfect life planned out before him. Unfortunately, it's not his plan. Eve Marcori, adopted sister and former Marine, is the one making arrangements. She doesn't need his input. Bound by duty and gratitude, Taro is determined to fulfill her every expectation no matter what he'd rather be doing.
RAFE BALLARD isn't looking to ruin any plans, especially those of a Marine. He just needs a safe place when his ex-girlfriend's jealous husband comes looking. Hiding behind Eve seems perfect. She's an old friend, she's mean, and she's taking her ship off-planet.
But when Rafe's stalker kidnaps both Rafe and Taro, everybody's plans go out the airlock.
For years Eve has pounded “protect the civilian” into Taro's head, along with martial arts training, piloting, survival... Skilled as he is, Taro realizes he may be in over his head. Fighting off a kidnapper on his own ship, flying a damaged escape pod, fending off poisonous wildlife and enraged castaways he can handle—battling his growing attraction to Rafe is far harder. Eve will find them, though, if Taro can keep them alive that long. And when she does—well, her plans for Taro leave no room for a playboy boyfriend whom she will never accept as good enough.
Caught between the sister he'd gladly die for and the man he's beginning to live for, Taro realizes it is time to start making his own plans.
I want to know more about Taro. Why is he such a slave to Eve? How is he bound by duty and gratitude? It’s the answers to those questions that say a lot about who the characters are, what drives them, so this is important information and you shouldn’t withhold it. Obviously Taro grows through the novel, but you don’t want him to start out so passive and pathetic that the reader is too annoyed to read on. But the fact that he’d “willingly die for her” is endearing enough to make the reader forgive him his apparent spinelessness, or at least put up with it for a while – just tell us why he feels that way. It will help explain his dynamic with Eve, which seems a defining force in the novel.
So enter Rafe, the dashing rogue on the run from his past. Cool. Keep your focus on Taro, and instead of listing a series of plot events stay focused on the throughline of the story, which seems to be about Rafe and Taro’s evolving relationship (do they start out in conflict with one another?) as Taro proves himself by leading them through the escape (don’t rattle off plot events – too generic – give us some vivid, interesting details that help create a much stronger sense of your storyworld) and following adventures. There is a fun, fast-paced story here. But why is Eve such a ballbuster who wants to control every move Taro makes? A ‘mean girl’ can be a fantastic antagonist but not if she comes off as one-dimensional. It might help if you shed some light on what Taro’s understanding of her ‘plan’ is and why this plan means (apparently) everything to her.
This reminds me somewhat of Han/Luke fanfic with bossy sister Leia as the obstacle to their love. Which is not in itself a bad thing, but I don’t get the sense from your hook that this story is quite ready yet–I need a more complex, thought-out sense of character and some more original world-building. Convince me of these things and I’m happy to read more. Pass.
Genres: YA, Fantasy & Science Fiction
We all know how some things, fairy tales for instance, can be passed down orally through the generations, merging and evolving as they go. But what if something alive, something ancient and intelligent, could also be
Passed from mind to mind, thereby living forever as the centuries rushed by? And
what if this “thing” was not friendly?
In the backwoods of the Austrian empire, in the 1840s - a time of peasant famine and general unease a teenage girl named Sister wakes to find she’s lost all memory of the last seven years of her life. In its place,
She’s gained a supernatural power, a psychic weapon capable of great harm, but the power comes at a price. A gang of ruthless woodsmen are combing the forest for her. Worse yet, as Sister pieces together her past from dreams and memory-fragments, she uncovers an ancient, inhuman presence at work inside her mind. The intruder is Baba Yaga, the mother of all witches, and Sister has three choices: fight, be swallowed utterly, or strike some kind of
Sister seeks solace in her little brother, a scared child who keeps resurfacing like a phantom along the forest road. The only problem is Brother thinks Sister killed their parents, and the facts of the case aren’t leaning in her favor. Sister’s search for a past brings her to an elegant dinner party, where Romantic poseurs play dangerous games with arcane rites.
Along the way are run-ins with the Hapsburg secret police, a man-eating bear, an anarchist assassin, cannibalism, hallucinogenic pagan rituals, and a romantic triangle with a pair of world-weary Gypsy musicians. Yet nothing
can prepare our heroine for the twisted dreamscape she must enter when she finally confronts Baba Yaga on the witch¹s own turf.
Some really good stuff here. I like the idea of mind-virus/meme as some kind of evil, supernatural creature head-hopping down through the centuries. I’m intrigued by the Austrian historical setting, and there’s a spooky fairy tale appeal about this girl named Sister alone in the woods going through these strange encounters. The brother who keeps mysteriously appearing also intrigues me.
Unfortunately there’s no clear sense of how all these cool elements come together, relate to each other. She can’t remember her past. There’s this thing about her murdered parents. She has to “fight, be swallowed utterly, strike a deal.” This sounds pretty important, but that’s all you say about it – so what choice does she make? Fight? (How?) Make a deal? (What kind?) What do those things even mean in actual, concrete terms, and what are the consequences of whatever choice she does make? Then you list a bunch of things that sound fun in a dark, slightly zany, Alice-in-Wonderland kind of way – but again, I don’t see how these things build on each other – how do they help Sister (or not) find her past, and how does this, in turn, result in her entering some kind of twisted dreamscape for the final showdown with Baba Yaga?
If you could establish how these events all build on each other, how Sister uncovers some kind of ultimate knowledge about herself/her past and finds (one assumes) whatever tools she needs to navigate the dreamscape and conquer Baba Yaga, who seems pretty unbeatable – then this would be an easy Yes. As it is, I’m not sure if the hook just needs restructuring or if the problems in the hook reflect the same problems in the novel, if the novel gets episodic and disjointed. So I pass. But you are close, and I truly hope you keep working on this one, and if I was an agent I would write you an encouraging note.